Tunisian minister quits after PM resigns

A minister in Tunisia`s interim government quit on Tuesday, hours after the prime minister resigned following deadly clashes at protests demanding the removal of figures from the regime toppled last month.

Last Updated: Mar 01, 2011, 11:05 AM IST

Tunis: A minister in Tunisia`s interim
government quit on Tuesday, hours after the prime minister resigned
following deadly clashes at protests demanding the removal of
figures from the regime toppled last month.

Mohamed Afif Chelbi, minister of industry and
technology, and ex-prime minister Mohammed Ghannouchi, who
stepped down on Sunday, were both in the government of
president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, ousted in a popular
uprising.
Thousands of people demonstrated on Friday and over
the weekend to demand the departure of figures from Ben Ali`s
regime, with clashes erupting on Saturday`s leaving five
people dead, according to the interior ministry.

"I am not ready to be the person who takes decisions
that would end up causing casualties," Ghannouchi said Sunday,
announcing his decision to resign after just over six weeks as
interim prime minister.

He was swiftly replaced by 84-year-old Beji Caid
Essebsi, a minister under independent Tunisia`s founding
president Habib Bourguiba, but opposition groups and
protesters said Monday they would continue to push for change.

Protesters camped outside government offices in Tunis
for the 11th day said they were still not satisfied.

"We will continue our sit-in until the formation of a
constituent assembly and the recognition of the Council for
the Protection of the Revolution," said protest coordinator
Mohamed Fadhel.
Demonstrators are wary the weeks-long uprising that
ended Ben Ali`s 23 years in power, and triggered revolts
elsewhere in the Arab world, could be hijacked by members of
the old regime still in positions of authority.

They have also demanded the establishment of a
parliamentary system. The interim government has meanwhile
pledged elections by mid-July.

Leading opposition figure Rached Ghannouchi, president
of the influential Islamist movement Ennahdha, said: "The
government of Ben Ali has gone, it must be replaced by one of
the people."

"The next government must include the Council for the
Protection of the Revolution," he said.

The city centre was still tense Monday after violence
erupted on Friday and continued through the weekend, when
security forces fired warning shots and tear gas to disperse
rampaging protesters.

The interior ministry said five people were killed as
security forces tried to push back a group of young people
armed with knives and stones who tried to storm the interior
ministry headquarters.

PTI